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AFP
July 31, 2020

Meghan compromised privacy of five friends in legal document

World

AFP
July 31, 2020

UNITED KINGDOM: The Duchess of Sussex was accused of compromising the privacy of her own friends by supplying their names in a legal document that she wants to remain secret, the High Court heard on Thursday.

The duchess “freely” and “without being compelled” disclosed the identities of five friends whose privacy she now fears will be breached.Meghan gave the names in a confidential document the publisher of The Mail on Sunday, who she is suing for breach of privacy and copyright over its publication of a handwritten letter to her father, Thomas Markle.

In legal submissions, the duchess has warned that being forced to identify the friends “is an unacceptable price to pay” in pursuit of her legal claim. She is arguing that naming them would breach their privacy under the European Convention on Human Rights, while the newspaper argues that they must be disclosed as a key principle of “open justice”.

At one stage in court proceedings, Meghan’s barrister accidentally let slip the surname of one of the friends his client is seeking to keep anonymous. Justice Warby, the judge, suggested such an error was “bound to happen” before immediately ordering that the name should not be reported.

It also emerged that only one of the friends – Friend B, an American citizen who says she approached People magazine of her own accord – has given a witness statement. A barrister for the newspaper group said the statement “has been shown to be unsatisfactory”, but did not go into any further detail.

It was disclosed that the duchess agreed to pay in full £67,888 in costs after the publisher successfully argued that elements of her case be struck out. The costs are just a fraction of a multi-million legal bill expected should the case go to a full trial next year.

The five friends – who can be identified only by the initials A to E – gave briefings to People magazine, a US publication, last February, at a time when Meghan was “heavily pregnant”, “vulnerable” and being subjected to bullying by parts of the media.

The People magazine article revealed the existence of the letter to her father which was subsequently published in The Mail on Sunday, prompting the ongoing High Court action.In legal submissions, her lawyers said: “Forcing the claimant (the duchess), as the defendant urges the court to do, to disclose their identities to the public at this stage is an unacceptable price to pay for the right to pursue her claim for invasion of privacy against the defendant.”

Her barrister, Justin Rushbrooke QC, told the court that Meghan had “compromised” her friends’ right to privacy “by putting their names into a public court document”. He added: “We say, on any analysis, that is actually a grotesque perversion of what’s actually happened.”